Jerry Sandusky gets another chance to lay out his case in a courtroom.
On Wednesday, McKean County Senior Judge John Cleland signed the order that the former Penn State defensive coordinator has been waiting for, the one OK’ing an evidentiary hearing in Sandusky’s Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act petition.
The PCRA is a very specific kind of appeal, one that has to hit certain points.
“It occurs after appeals to the PA Superior and Supreme Court. It is the final appeal in state court. It generally is the last step for a convicted person and most often focuses on claims of ‘ineffectiveness’ of trial counsel. It seeks a new trial based upon claims of deficiencies of trial counsel's performance,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
“It is a much harder vehicle to prevail on since it also requires that a defendant prove that but for counsel's "mistake,” ... generally the verdict would have been different,” she said.
That is what Sandusky’s new attorneys, Al Lindsay and Andrew Salemme, argue about his original trial counsel, Joe Amendola and Karl Rominger. Cleland, after petitions and some preliminary arguments in Bellefonte, is giving them the chance for a full-on hearing on Aug. 12, 22 and 23.
In Cleland’s order, he grants the hearing on 10 individual points argued in the petition.
Those include things like counsel not objecting to what is called prosecutorial misconduct. Lindsay and Salemme argue that prosecution made false statements in closing arguments by saying the identity of probably the most publicized victim in the case, the boy Sandusky was alleged to have assaulted in a Nittany Lion locker room shower, was unknown.
Cleland clarified a point on that.
“... The focus of the hearing will be on whether or not (prosecutor Joseph) McGettigan lied to the jury when he said the identity of Victim #2 was unknown,” he wrote. “The question is what Mr. McGettigan believed to be true when he made the statement.”
Cleland will also hear arguments on whether counsel was ineffective telling Sandusky there was an agreement between Amendola and prosecutors that neither side would present that young man.
Lindsay and Salemme say the previous attorneys should have quashed the grand jury presentment; utilized the preliminary hearing instead of waiving it; presented the grand jury testimony of former Penn State officials Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley; and objected to the court’s jury instruction, which they called erroneous.
They also questioned the decision to allow Sandusky to do an interview with Bob Costas, “thereby providing the commonwealth with additional evidence.”
Sandusky has attended two arguments in Bellefonte as his attorneys sought this hearing. A transfer order was not part of the most recent order, but Lindsay and Salemme have requested their client be transferred from Greene state prison in Waynesburg after orders were entered for the previous arguments.
Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence for his conviction on 45 of 48 counts of child sexual abuse charges in 2012. He has maintained that he is innocent on all counts.